Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011
Posted 5:54 p.m.
By Chuck Garfien
GLENDALE, Ariz - Minnesota is a lovely state, 12th largest in the U.S., and the original homes of Bob Dylan, Prince and Winona Ryder; not to mention countless moose, elk, bears, ducks, geese, fish, and prairie dogs.
But bring up its baseball team to any warm-blooded White Sox fan, and you will hear John Q. South Sider describe a dark, grisly place - a squad notorious for getting under your skin, quietly and gradually twisting itself around your arteries and large intestine, and staying there for about a decade.
Like cigarettes and alcohol, the Minnesota Twins can be hazardous to your health.
Especially last year, which might have been the equivalent of chain smoking a shelf of Marlboros and drinking a full keg of beer.
We were 5-13 against them, something like that. Matt Thornton remembers way too accurately. They beat us. They had a better team last year. They beat us up. They were the difference in us winning the division last year.
So true. And the Twins did it without their best power hitter, Justin Morneau, for most of the season (concussion) and closer Joe Nathan for all of it (elbow surgery).
But it wasnt a shock to the White Sox. Theyve seen it all before.
No matter who they lose, or go down with injury, they always have guys who step in and fill their spots, Mark Buehrle said. They lose one of the best closers in baseball last year and everyone thinks, There goes their chances. Its going to be us or Detroit. And the next thing you know, they still win the division.
I ask Buehrle how much he detests the Twins, and to put a number on it between 1 and 10. I thought hed say 11, but got an answer I wasnt expecting.
I dont want to put a number on it. Theyre obviously our biggest division rival and theyre the team thats there every year. But thats one of the most respected teams I have for in the league.
A lot of those guys I enjoy playing against. Off the field I like talking to those guys. (Jim) Thome is over there now and says theyre great guys. Theyre not a dirty team, they play baseball right. So theres a lot about the Twins organization that Im a fan of.
And therein lies the problem. The Twins, despite their recent domination over the Sox (winning the Central Division in six of the last nine years) are just too nice for the Sox to hate.
Its like despising a puppy dog or a kitten. They cant do it.
Name a bad guy on the Twins. Think, think, think. There isnt one.
Yeah, Joe Mauer can be annoying for making 35 trips to the pitchers mound, Morneau never cracks a smile, and Jason Kubel is legally obligated to hit a homer off the Sox in every game for the rest of his life, but under that Twins uniform theyre all wholesome, down-to-earth good people. Not a bad apple in there. Having Thome, one of the most gentle, good-hearted human beings on the planet, certainly isnt helping.
But something has to change.
Yes, the White Sox can praise and admire the Twins if they want, but after the drubbing they took last year, its time to keep those compliments to a minimum - or something close to never. You dont hear the Yankees and Red Sox talk in such a glowing way about each other. It just doesnt happen.
Since the White Sox couldnt beat em in 2010, applaud Kenny Williams for going out and atleast trying to sign em.
Hello, Jesse Crain!
If there was a White Sox killer on the Twins, Crain could often be seen holding a baseball and tomorrows obituary. In 49 career innings against the Sox, Crains ERA is 1.45. And last season? Forget about it, the Sox didnt have a chance. In 10 13 innings, Crain gave up three hits, no runs, and had 10 strikeouts.
No surprise Williams swooped in and gave Crain a three-year, 13-million dollar contract.
So Jesse, mi compadre, now that youve joined forces with the White Sox, whats the secret? How have the Twins been able to beat the Sox so many times over the years?
Its just one of those things where we were playing well and we had their number for a while, Crain said. We could go out there and never feel like we were out of it, and just play hard. Hopefully that switches this year.
Crain had three or four teams in hot pursuit of him, including the Red Sox who eventually signed Bobby Jenks. The White Sox entered the picture at the last minute, completing the deal in about 24 hours. Getting a three-year contract played a big part in Crain coming to Chicago, but so did something else.
After they signed Adam Dunn, they already signed (Paul) Konerko and (A.J.) Pierzynski, I knew they were going to have a great team, and Ive played against them for so long that I know that, Crain said. I know how well were going to do, so that was a huge thing. I want to be apart of a team that has a chance to win.
Take that Minnesota.
And maybe the White Sox can take a cue from John Danks, the last Sox pitcher to beat the Twins in a big game, The Blackout of 2008.
We respect the heck out of them, Danks said. But I think we kind of need to lose a little bit of respect and go out there and beat them up a little bit.
Sounds like a good plan to me.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.